Arrival Advice: Passport Control & Immigration©
Arrival Advice: Passport Control & Immigration

Arrival Advice: Passport Control & Immigration


Arrival Advice for New Zealand

After a lengthy flight to get to New Zealand, passing through Customs can feel more stressful than it actually is. Let us relieve the stress by taking you through the process of arriving in New Zealand. We’ll go through what to expect in this arrival advice for New Zealand guide.

On arrival, you will have to go through Passport Control, Baggage Claim then Biosecurity. This article will guide you through the first part of the arrival: Passport Control and Immigration.

For a guide on the latter steps, see here: Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs. Plus, find more essential travel advice in the 31 Tips for Travelling in New Zealand.

What Happens When You Go Through Passport Control and Immigration?

As long as you bring the correct visa and supporting evidence, passport and passenger card, passing through Passport Control and Immigration will be a breeze.

This guide will tell you what to expect…

  • On the plane
  • At the passport control desk
  • Whether or not you need a visa
  • What the Immigration officer might ask you
  • At the SmartGate.

Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in New Zealand©

What to Expect on the Plane to New Zealand

The first part of passing through Immigration and Passport Control is by filling out the Passenger Arrival Card. This narrow card should be handed to you on your flight to New Zealand.

Complete the form – you can check out our Passenger Arrival Card article for tips. Then keep the Passenger Arrival Card to hand in at the Passport Control desk when you land.

© Pixabay

What to Expect at the Passport Control Desk

The setup of Passport Control is very similar to many other countries. You must queue for Immigration officers to check your passport, visa and passenger arrival card.

Your passport must be valid for at least three months after your intended departure date. You will also need a valid visa depending on which country you come from. (More information below).

Make sure you have the evidence/paperwork to support the requirements of your visa. For example, the Working Holiday Visa requires you to have sufficient funds for your stay in New Zealand, a return travel ticket/or sufficient funds to buy one, and certificate of your travel insurance. We recommend snapping up the cheap and comprehensive Working Holiday Plan insurance from OrbitProtect.

All the evidence might not be asked of you, but it’s always best to be prepared!


Do You Need a Visa?

You do not need a visa if:

  • You are a New Zealand or Australian resident
  • You are a Resident Permit holder
  • You have an Australian passport
  • A British passport holder who can provide evidence that they permanently reside in the UK. British citizens can stay in New Zealand for up to six months
  • You are from a visa-waiver country (check the Immigration NZ website to see if your country is listed). In this case, you need to provide travel tickets or evidence of onward travel arrangements, and evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself. For example, a bank statement. You can stay in New Zealand for three months.


Remember, if you’re travelling to New Zealand as a visitor but do not require a visa, you still need to apply for the NZETA. Find out more in the What You Need to Know About the New Zealand ETA & Visitor Levy.

Not on the Waiver List?

If your country is not on the waiver list or you want to stay longer than three months (six months if British), then you will need to apply for a Visitor Visa. You can download the application form from Immigration NZ.

In New Zealand to Work or Study?

There are other visa options for working and studying in New Zealand, which often allow you to stay for at least a year. The most common visa for 18-30-year-olds is the Working Holiday Visa. Make sure you have a hard copy of your visa in case the Immigration officer asks for it.

© Igor Zarembo on Wikipedia

What the Immigration Officer Might Ask You

After handing over your passport and passenger arrival card, the Immigration officer might ask you a few questions. It is likely that the officer won’t but it’s always best to be prepared, right? The questions you could be asked are:

Do you have anything to declare?

You will have to declare what you have stated on your Passenger Arrival Card. For example, if you have brought sports equipment, state that to the Immigration officer.

What is the purpose of your trip?

Basically say what your visa is: working holiday, visitor, etc.

Do you have a return ticket or sufficient funds for a return ticket?

Show the appropriate evidence, such as a hard copy of a recent bank statement or your outward travel ticket.

Do you have sufficient funds required for your visa?

Show the appropriate evidence, such as a hard copy of a recent bank statement.

Do you have any contacts in the country?

Give contact details if you know anyone in the country. If you don’t have a contact, no worries.

Where are you going to be staying for the first few days?

Have the address of your hostel on hand.

Where was your last destination?

State your home country or the last country you visited, if you are not coming straight from home.

Have you visited New Zealand before?

Do you have any food with you?

By this point, you shouldn’t have any food with you. There will be bins to dispose of any food.

How much cash do you have on you today?

If you have NZ$10,000+ or the foreign equivalent, then you’ll have to go through a Border Cash Report.

If all goes well, which we’re sure it will, you will get an Immigration NZ stamp in your passport. The passport and the Passenger Arrival Card will be returned to you, and you’ll be on your way!

© US Embassy on Flickr

At the eGate

Within the New Zealand international airports of Auckland, Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington you can use the eGate if you hold an e-passport from New Zealand, Australia, UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, China, Netherlands or Ireland. This is instead of going to the Passport Control desk and speaking to a real human being.

The eGate kiosk reads your e-passport, asks you some simple questions, then issues you a ticket to use at the gate.

Insert your ticket at the gate, a camera will scan your face to see if it matches your passport. Take off anything that obstructs your face, like glasses. If you are successful, the gate will open! If not, usually due to a technical difficulty, see the Immigration officer at the desk.

What’s Next?

Baggage Claim and Biosecurity!

All the declarations you made on your Passenger Arrival Card will come into play in this next section of arriving in New Zealand. Find out more about biosecurity in the next steps: Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs.

If you’re arriving in Auckland Airport, check out the steps in our article. Otherwise, find all the arrival tips you need in our guide, Arriving in New Zealand: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & the Arrival Process.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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